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De Blasio Admits 'More Could Have Been Done' to Clear UES Streets of Snow

By  Colby Hamilton and Lindsay Armstrong | January 22, 2014 2:03pm | Updated on January 22, 2014 6:01pm

 Mayor Bill de Blasio visits the Upper East Side following criticism that he left it without sufficient plowing on Wednesday January 22, 2014.
Mayor Bill de Blasio visits the Upper East Side following criticism that he left it without sufficient plowing on Wednesday January 22, 2014.
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Rob Bennett for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio

CARROLL GARDENS — Mayor Bill de Blasio reversed his stance on criticism that he bungled this week's snowstorm — initially dismissing concerns that the Upper East Side was left behind on snow removal, before admitting that "more could have been done" to clear streets there.

The mayor initially bristled at reporters who asked why areas including Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn appeared virtually snow free, while the Upper East Side's avenues were clogged with wintery sludge Wednesday morning, insisting, “No one was treated differently."

“With all due respect, anyone that wants to play out a theory here, it’s just not accurate. We had a coordinated, intense citywide response,” de Blasio added.

But after paying a visit to speak to those who live in the Upper East Side, de Blasio released a statement Wednesday night that was decidedly more apologetic.

“After hearing concerns about street conditions on the Upper East Side, I headed to the area to survey the streets for myself. While the overall storm response across the city was well-executed, after inspecting the area and listening to concerns from residents earlier today, I determined more could have been done to serve the Upper East Side," de Blasio said in a statement released just before 6 p.m.

De Blasio added that he "instructed the Commissioner of the Department of Sanitation to double-down on cleanup efforts on the Upper East Side," with 30 vehicles and nearly 40 sanitation workers deployed to the area to "finish the cleanup."

Those who live and drive on the Upper East Side said it was about time.

“This area around here is really bad, definitely the worst in the city," said a taxi driver parked at 78th and Lexington Avenue who gave his name only as Uddin, “The Upper West Side was a little bit better, but Midtown going crosstown is also very rough.”

A delivery driver for Butterfield Market named Kelvin, who was making deliveries across the city on Wednesday, said the streets around his home in Ridgewood Queens were better taken care of than the ones he spotted in Manhattan.

“I live in Queens and its actually better in Queens than it is here right now," the driver said.

Ashraf Hussein, a driver for Accurate Air Tech HVac Company, said the city streets were not up to snuff after the storm.

“This storm was just too much. The streets are normally better than this, like you would see blacktop by now, but this storm was exceptional," said Hussein, who lives in Astoria, "The temperatures are so extreme and it’s the first time people are experiencing this in like 20 years.”

But Tom O’Brien, who drives for a client on the Upper East Side, said Wednesday's conditions left him wanting.

"I think the city fell flat yesterday. I was watching the traffic around 59th Street yesterday. People didn’t know the bridge was closed and it was a mess around there,” O'Brien said.

“The storm also started earlier than they thought so I think a lot of people drove in and got stuck.”

De Blasio stood by his decision to leave schools open on Wednesday in the wake of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's declaration Tuesday evening that the five boroughs were in a state of emergency.

NYC ended up getting nearly a foot of snow overnight — much more than the nine inches of snow that prompted de Blasio to cancel classes before dawn on Jan. 1, during the last major snowstorm.

"We last time had a later breaking storm and we were much less secure about what the transportation situation would be in the morning,” de Blasio explained. As of 10 p.m. Tuesday night, he said, he felt secure that the state of the roads would allow kids to get to school safely.

“You always start with the assumption that you would rather have school, as long as it’s safe,” he said. “For 14 years, as a public school parent, I thought about these exact issues for my children."